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AP 1050: How Do I Grow My Business as a Designer after a Failed Course Launch?

AP 1050: How Do I Grow My Business as a Designer after a Failed Course Launch?

By Pat Flynn on

This week I’m coaching Jessica, a designer who works primarily with clients in the health and wellness space. She wants to grow her business and create passive income, but after a failed course launch and some other efforts, she’s just not where she wants to be yet. Listen in as I help Jessica strategize ways to create more passive income and get some time back too.

Jessica starts things off with an overview of her business, how she’s niched down, and how she recently started group coaching. She has lots of content on YouTube and her blog, which is great for bringing in clients, but now she wants to monetize that content and create passive income. I dive into some strategies for up-serving her clients, finding out what her audience wants next, pre-selling and validating a new online course, and even repurposing some content as well. We pivot a little from there to talk about Jessica’s ultimate career goals, which include passive income and more freedom in her schedule. I present strategies like using affiliate links within targeted freebies, productizing her services, and creating further opportunities with her clients. Jessica wraps up the call with clarity and some important next steps in mind.

What You’ll Learn:
Listen in on this coaching call for strategies on up-serving your clients, creating more passive income, and growing your business.

AskPat 1050 Episode Transcript

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Pat Flynn: What’s up everybody, Pat Flynn here, and welcome to Episode 1050 of AskPat 2.0. This is a podcast where you’re going to listen in on a coaching session between myself and an entrepreneur just like you. Make sure you stick around because today we’re chatting with Jessica Freeman, a designer who does some amazing design work for clients one-on-one. But how can she generate more income, more passive income? She’s tried a course; it didn’t go according to plan, so what might she be able to do to grow her income and also get some time back?

We’re going to talk about that today, but before we get to that and Jessica’s call, I do want to thank today’s sponsor, which is FreshBooks, a software that you need to be using to organize your business finances. It doesn’t matter the size of your business, they’ll be able to handle it, whether you are a solopreneur like I was for years when I was using the software, or a bigger business with loads of people and loads of invoices and loads of expenses and loads of income coming in. No matter what, you can use this tool to help better organize the finances in your business life. They serve millions of small business owners like us, and I love them. They’re great. They’re fantastic, super easy to use, very intuitive.

And all you need to do is to get the thirty-day free trial, go to One of my favorite features is the fact that you can create a professional-looking invoice in literally less than thirty seconds, and you can send it to whomever and you can get paid and if you don’t get paid, you can follow up with them very easily. You can also be able to keep track of who has yet to even open the invoices that you send out. So if you are a service-based business like Jessica, I’d highly recommend you use something like FreshBooks because it’s awesome, super simple to use, and you get a thirty-day free trial, like I said, which you can get by going to, and just make sure you enter “Ask Pat” in the “How did you hear about us?” section.

All right. Now, let’s get to the coaching call with Jess. Here she is.

Hey, Jess, welcome to AskPat 2.0. Thanks for coming on the show today.

Jessica Freeman: Hey, Pat. Thanks so much for having me.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, absolutely. Why don’t you take a few moments to tell everybody what is all about and what you do?

Jessica Freeman: Yeah. For seven years I have been a graphic and web designer and I primarily work with service-based businesses, and in 2018 I really started niching down to working with health and wellness professionals and working with them on their websites and their branding. I also have a YouTube channel and a podcast on top of my blog. And so all of that content is for my followers and my clients to just kind of help them as they navigate managing their websites and creating their personal brand.

Pat Flynn: Very nice. I love that. You know, one of my favorite words of 2018 is niche down, and I love that you’ve said that, and you’re kind of in the health and wellness space. Is it still service-based at this point?

Jessica Freeman: Yes. Yeah. All of my clients that are in that health and wellness—they’re kind of like dieticians and personal trainers. I’m still doing that one-on-one work.

Pat Flynn: Nice, and how are you serving them?

Jessica Freeman: Most of my clients, I’m doing their websites. Some of them also website and logos. And then, in 2019 I have been doing a group coaching program, walking them through how to optimize their existing website and then marketing themselves online through social media and that kind of stuff.

Pat Flynn: That’s super cool. That’s funny, usually when people go service-based business—what should I do to earn a little bit more passive income? How can I sort of walk away or start to get more of my time back?—group coaching is usually the first sort of thing. It’s so cool that you’re already going down that path. Based on everything that you’ve spoken about already, what’s on your mind right now?

Jessica Freeman: Like I said earlier, I’ve been in business for seven years. About probably four years ago, maybe five, I started blogging, so I have over 300 blog posts and almost 300 videos on YouTube. I have a ton of content, a ton of content, and it is . . . It gets a lot of traction. I get a ton of website visits to that content and it’s great for bringing in clients. I don’t have that struggle. I’m booked out usually four to five months in advance, but there’s only one of me. I don’t have a team of designers. I’m not really looking to grow a team at this point, and I would love to kind of take that content and somehow monetize it, turn it into passive income, or funnel people to a passive income product or something, and I’ve just really been struggling to actually get any traction with passive income in my business.

Pat Flynn: Awesome. Well, I have a lot of ideas for you. Obviously, this is my thing, but I’d love to know kind of what is your gut tell you that you should potentially start focusing on, in relation to passive income and sort of getting more of your time back?

Jessica Freeman: I have tried little ebooks, guides, and that kind of thing. My audience is not really interested in courses so much. I tried a course four or five years ago, and it completely flopped if I’m being totally honest. I’m wondering if I could possibly . . . I could survey my audience again and see if they’re interested in courses, just in DMs and conversations, people aren’t interested. I’ve thought about maybe a course of some sort, or I’ve also played around with the idea of some kind of book, compiling all those blogs and making it more into a book. I’m not really sure.

Pat Flynn: Cool. No, this is great, and I love where your head is at. Typically when a service-based business wants . . . An owner wants to get some more time back, there’s obviously a number of different ways they can do that, and you’ve already mentioned some of them. You’ve also mentioned earlier that you don’t really want to build a team. You don’t want an agency, where you have a bunch of people that you want to manage, and it’s so great you know that.

For those of you listening, if you’d like to know how to potentially productize your service, which does require some other people, but being hands on with your clients and your business . . . Maybe this is interesting to you as well, Jessica, but Brian Casel has been featured on my show before. This is what he teaches people, service-based businesses . . . How to take that service-based business and essentially productize it.

That doesn’t mean selling courses and other things like that. It literally means—for example, for you, since you’re helping health and wellness industry-related people with their website—instead of going one-on-one with them and giving them sort of a really custom way to go about it, it would be like, “Here are three designs that you could choose from, we can easily customize these things, but here’s the three that you can choose from.” Essentially like, “Here are products that you can buy and you already know what the outcome is.” Versus, “Would it . . .” and correct me if I’m wrong, but are you giving people a very highly-customized sort of white-glove service for what they’re creating?

Jessica Freeman: Yes, yeah. Everything is totally custom in different—but yeah, so I haven’t done the, “choose one of these and we’ll move forward,” that way.

Pat Flynn: Right, which can be a potential solution to relieve a little bit of time just so that it’s not so one-to-one, if you wanted to go down that route. But for many people that I speak to in your position, they don’t want to do that because part of the benefit of working with you is the interaction and the one-on-one and the sort of customization aspect of it. Where a lot of people go is, and potentially this is where the solution might come from, is not necessarily how can you automate or package what you already offer your people into a product that would likely costs a little less, and obviously get you some time back, but what else could you offer them that would be, for example, step number two, or additions to what they’re already getting from you?

Passive income could come from . . . Well, I’m just spitting out loud what I’m thinking, but for example, “Hey, you have your website up now. Now’s the time to start a podcast to help you grow your health and wellness business, and here are some podcasting resources that I have that are affiliate-related.” Or, “Here is a product that I have on SEO, so you can learn SEO.” Or, “Here is a product to get your design work done from somebody who I have a relationship with, and you can go to them.” And that becomes passive because you’re essentially pointing to people who already trust you now because you’ve served them with other recommendations. Have you done any affiliate marketing to sort of up-serve the current client base that you have?

Jessica Freeman: Yes. I have done a little bit and kind of like what you were saying with step two. That’s kind of where my group program came from, because a lot of my clients were like, “Great, I have this website,” and while we’re working together, so many of them are like, “Should I be on Instagram?” And, “What do you use for email marketing?” and stuff like that. I just took it as the whole package and that’s what my group program will cover. But I’m thinking maybe I could break that down into smaller, individual pieces and like, “Hey, if you want to start podcasting, here’s some affiliate things and tutorials and whatnot, and that might be a good next step.”

Pat Flynn: I think that would be a quite . . . Like you said, a good next step and quite simple to create at least a list of resources for people and then choose their own adventure, if you will. But I think, in addition to affiliate marketing, which is easy to set up and you just have to get those affiliate links, obviously—I think that because you’re helping your clients so well, they still want you a little bit, too. The group coaching is a great answer, but within those groups, perhaps it might be interesting to find out if you were to create a course or a resource on just one of those little topics that you talk about in that group, which one would it be? And you may already know the answer to that, or it may just require some conversations or even polls in that particular audience, in your group, to understand, “Okay, like . . .”

And I don’t know if you’ve read my book, Will It Fly?, but it would essentially be figuring out in this group that you have, both your existing clients and your group clients, what would be the next step and what would that product be? And it would require conversations, it would require polling. And then, like I said, you may already have the answer, but then what I’m leading to is validating that course or that product before you actually create it.

You had mentioned earlier that you had a flopped course sale four or five years ago, which I know just the stigma of what it is like to have a failed launch and how that can sort of scare people from wanting to do it again. But number one, that was four or five years ago, you’ve grown and have become, like everybody does, a much better and much smarter entrepreneur. You’ve obviously grown and you’re going to take a smarter approach, and we always learn from those mistakes and lessons from our past as well, but your audience probably loves you even more.

I would say the next step for you, for your own product, would be to see if maybe another course would be, would make sense, but validate it first. That means perhaps even pre-selling it, just to even see and . . . With pre-selling—and that scares a lot of people sometimes, but what’s cool is you can just create an outline and this is based on what your audience says, and essentially, hypothetically create the sales page for that without actually creating the course yet. And yes, you are honest with your audience. You’re telling them, “This course doesn’t exist yet, but if we get a good response or if we get twenty people to pre-pay—and yes it’s a little bit of a discount, but you also get special access to me. We’ll be going through this sort of course together. I’ll be creating it with you over time,” and that is the incentive for people to get in early and then by the end, after you create it, it’s already done.

You already have testimonials and then when you sell it for real, it’ll be that much stronger, not just for your audience, but for you mentally because you know that this thing is proven. And again, you don’t move forward with building it until you know that it has successfully pre-sold. And if you maybe . . . Some people worry like, “What if it’s only a couple people buy, do I still create it?” No, you can just refund it and then move on to the next particular topic. But if you’ve done your research and have those conversations beforehand, it can be a lot . . . You can have a lot more confidence going into a course sale if you do it that way.

Jessica Freeman: Yeah. That’s kind of what I did with my group program. I created the page for it and I had an outline and, “This is what we’ll cover in all the calls,” and that kind of thing, but I didn’t create any of the workbooks or videos or anything, and sold a few spots and I was like, “Okay, now let’s start working on the workbook and getting everything ready.” But yeah, that’s what I did. I’m totally open to trying that again with a course, because yeah, like you said, things have changed, and I’ve grown a lot and I know looking back what I did wrong in that course launch and creating it, so definitely something I could try again.

Pat Flynn: You could try that again. Absolutely. Another option, and again I just want to give you various options and then we’ll figure out kind of like, what your next steps are going to be in just a moment. But another option for people who are already doing group-related things is to record that information, or essentially turn those group calls into a course, where the benefit of being in the group is they get you, they get to ask questions. But people still would love that content; that can turn into essentially a database or a library that people could get access to, so you have your, essentially . . . And I love that you are already doing client work because that creates a really nice anchor price and point for all the other things that you do. It’s like the high level service, they get you, all of you. There you are, and then the group coaching or the group calls are sort of the medium level.

Then, if they can’t either afford that or they don’t have time for that or they want a little bit more DIY, then they have the sort of lower level. But it’s all kind of essentially the same thing, so there could be opportunities for you to repurpose what you’re already doing with the group into something that you could still offer to people who maybe just can’t afford it, or they want to do it on their own time, and that can be some low hanging fruit as well.

Jessica Freeman: Yeah. I like that idea of repurposing those videos. I think that could work.

Pat Flynn: I mean, what is your ultimate goal? I’m curious here. I mean, we’ve been talking a lot about the how to and the what. But ideally if you have, for example, a magic wand a year from now, what would your business look like? How much time would you have and what would be your of ideal percentage of clients versus group versus other passive income streams?

Jessica Freeman: Right now, I work with about four clients at a time, three to four clients at a time. I mean, I work probably thirty-five to forty hours a week, and I would love to . . . I mean, right now just with affiliate income and the few passive products that I do sell, which are very, very few, I only get a couple hundred dollars of passive income a month and that really varies. Sometimes it’s like, here’s $60. I would love to have my passive income be more half and half of what I make, so maybe I can go down to one to two clients at a time, because I truly love client work. I’m a designer so I like to actually design.

I’m not trying to get away from designing. It’s just, I feel like my income has been a little bit capped with only being able to work with so many clients at a time and not trying to out-price myself, raise my prices too much, where my clients can’t afford me or whatever. If I could get down to one to two clients at a time, that would be ideal, so I just have more freedom in my schedule.

Pat Flynn: Are you literally helping people from scratch with their websites and design and those kinds of things?

Jessica Freeman: Most of the time, yes. Most of my clients don’t have a website. They’re just getting started. I’d say maybe 40 percent of the time they have a website, but they’ve done it themselves. It’s very, very basic. There’s one picture on the page and a paragraph of text. So very, very little on there, so we’ll revamp it and kind of do an entire overhaul.

Pat Flynn: Are there opportunities for passive income for you related to things that you already helped your current client base with? For example, if you are helping them start their website, I mean, they need hosting and they could potentially go through an affiliate link to set up their accounts; that would offer some additional income for you without costing them any extra.

Jessica Freeman: Yes. I have two hosts that I recommend and most of the new clients, and even some of the clients that have an existing website, sometimes they’re using a host that they don’t like or that’s not reliable, whatever, so they’ll switch. That is some of the more consistent passive income, is the affiliate income from those hosts. That’s probably the biggest affiliate that I have, is for my hosting.

Pat Flynn: What about for—and I’m just thinking of people who are starting websites of any kind, what they might need—email service providers? Is that another opportunity?

Jessica Freeman: Yes, yes. I’m an affiliate for ConvertKit, so I always recommend them to my clients and send them my affiliate link. Most of the tools that I use personally and recommend, I usually send those to clients. Like, “Here’s all the things I use.” That’s part of what people love about when they’re working with me, is because it’s not just a website. I’m kind of like, “Hey, you should use this project management system. This is invoicing, email marketing.” We don’t deep dive into it, but I at least throw it their way. Like, “This would be super helpful in organizing and streamlining your business, and also here’s an affiliate link.”

Pat Flynn: I love that. I’m curious how many . . . Four clients a month, and with all this amazing content out there, I would imagine that there’s so many more people who want to work with you who are just dying to get access and to get their website up and all that stuff. Is that true that just . . . You wish you could just clone yourself out like a thousand times to help everybody?

Jessica Freeman: Yes. Because like I said, I’m booked out like four to five months in advance pretty consistently. I’ve had a client waitlist for four years now, and there’s been lots of people who are like, “I would love to work with you and I do not want to wait four months.”

Pat Flynn: Yeah. I mean, how might you serve them, even if you can’t personally do it?

Jessica Freeman: Other than having junior designers and going that route, that leads me to either doing the course—which is the course that I created a few years ago was how to do your own website—or potentially the group program. It doesn’t exactly walk them through designing it, just optimizing your current website. But I could either adjust that or create a second program.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s a huge opportunity, especially with the amazing amount of content that you have in website traffic and whatnot. For example, if I wanted to work with you and I just knew I couldn’t for months, but I had this business idea and I really wanted to get it set up, I would still go to you for where I need to get hosting, where I need to get email and all that stuff.

I mean, this is very similar with my podcasting stuff, for example. I coach people through podcasting. I have courses on podcasting, but I still serve thousands of people through actually a free piece of content that has embedded in it a number of affiliate links. There could be opportunities for you to just go, “Hey, you know what? I can’t serve everybody, but for those of you who are just dying to get in, and perhaps you can’t afford my services or you don’t want to wait that long, I still want to help you. Here’s a free resource. You can download it and there’s . . . ” Essentially, you’d be able to collect their email address and kind of keep tabs on them.

A segment of those people are going to go, “Oh, I have to wait for you because I don’t want to do it on my own.” But there could be a number of people who would go, “You know what? Wow, Jessica’s given me everything I need, I’m going to make sure I go through all those links because that’s how I’m going to repay her for that.” And that could offer some additional passive income for people who, yes, perhaps they could be a client one day, and of course you can still serve them and make money later, after they have their website with all the other step two related things that you have as well.

But there could be some just really, really easy opportunities to capitalize on that traffic and that content with some amazing high value. Just blow-your-mind stuff from Jessica and, “Wow, she’s helping me out. She’s given me all the steps, and yes, I would love to work with her, but I can’t wait that long or I can’t afford it. I’m going to make sure to click on all these links so that she gets some love back.”

Jessica Freeman: Yeah, that’s definitely something I could do, because none of my freebies right now are specifically website-related. I used to have one a few years ago and then for whatever reason, kind of rotated it out, but that’s something I could easily put together.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, and again, you could even validate that by just saying that you’re going to come out with it and putting a lead page up or a coming soon, sort of opt-in thing, and just see what happens. I imagine that when you do that, you’re going to see hundreds of people within the first month go, “Yes. Please, I want it.” And just imagine each of those people going through that process and looking on your hosting link. I mean, I could see it exponentially growing and helping you relieve of . . . Adding to your income, for sure.

Jessica Freeman: Yeah, that would be . . . Do you think within that freebie, would it just be kind of, “Here are the different steps and parts to think about,” or would it also be super in depth of like, “Here’s how to set up the host and this is what you need to include on your website,” and that kind of thing?

Pat Flynn: I mean, I would say, do what you can to best serve them without overwhelming them.

Jessica Freeman: Okay.

Pat Flynn: To me, that would be like, “Okay, well show me, Jessica, how to get my website up.” But the deep details that I’m sure you go through with your clients, that’s probably . . . I mean, it kind of works, because if I’m just wanting to get up and running, that would overwhelm me, but that would be worth paying for when I know I need that stuff.

Jessica Freeman: Yeah, that makes sense.

Pat Flynn: Awesome, so what might your next steps be from this point forward?

Jessica Freeman: Well, definitely the freebie. That’s the thing that I can work on first and the fastest, but I liked earlier when you, like at the beginning of the call you mentioned having potentially, “Here’s three designs to work with and you just choose one and we install it,” and whatever. I’m thinking about exploring that more and seeing if that’s something people would be interested in because—

Pat Flynn: We repeat patterns with all your clients and all those kinds of things, and there’s certain elements for this particular niche of yours that kind of remain on all sites that you create. Right?

Jessica Freeman: Yeah. There’s definitely similar pages and that kind of thing. Most everyone wants like, that banner image at the top. There’s certain elements that are the same. They might just look a little bit different, so that’s definitely something I could think about. Then, I think later in 2019, start looking into, okay, what’s the step two . . . If I could talk to a bunch of my past clients and be like, “What would be the next step? Are you wanting to start a podcast? Are you wanting to get on YouTube?” Whatever, and see which step two most people want and see if I can—

Pat Flynn: That’s super smart, going to your existing clients. I think the question that I would ask would be related to not necessarily like, which platform do you want to do next, but what are your next goals? Because then that will inform the answer or the solution, which is whatever it is that you know that would be best for them, as opposed to . . . This is the common issue that people have with surveys. They go, “What do you want me to create next? A podcast, a YouTube channel, or whatever?” Versus, “Well, what do you need help with most?” And now I can then determine how to best serve that to them.

Jessica Freeman: Yeah, that makes sense.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, I think you’re on the right track for sure. And it’s cool that you’re excited about those, potentially productizing your service in a way, because then you’re not starting from scratch with each client, and then maybe perhaps you’d be able to serve ten clients a month much easier versus just four, and increase your income that way, and obviously have a faster service, too.

Jessica Freeman: Yes, which they would definitely appreciate.

Pat Flynn: Cool. Awesome. Thank you so much. I hope you don’t mind if I reach back out to you; later in the year we could check in on you and kind of see how things are going.

Jessica Freeman: Absolutely. I would love that.

Pat Flynn: Awesome, and one more time for everybody, where can they see what you’re up to and perhaps be client one day?

Jessica Freeman: And then on social media and YouTube @JessCreatives.

Pat Flynn: Jess Creatives, awesome. Thank you, Jess. Appreciate you and good luck.

Jessica Freeman: Thank you. Thanks.

Pat Flynn: All right. I hope you enjoyed this episode with Jess from Make sure to check her out and also her portfolio. It’s awesome. Well done, Jess. I’m looking forward to seeing how you implement these strategies, and we might reach out to you in the future to have you come back on and share with us how you’ve progressed and what you’ve done and how things have changed since then at some point.

Some of my favorite episodes are the ones where we bring people back. Similar to on Shark Tank, you see people who have gotten deals who then grow their businesses. I mean, this is very similar, and without the crazy Shark Tank drama. Really excited for you, Jess. Thank you so much. For those of you listening in, I appreciate you for listening all the way through.

Make sure you, A, subscribe to the podcast, and B, you also check out where you can get a list of the archive of the previous episodes and you can also apply to get coaching just like Jess did today. You scroll down, there’s a button on there to fill out an application. I cannot possibly select everybody, but guess what? I’m not going to select you unless you try, so hit up that application.

Give me as much information as you might think I need to be convinced that I need to have you on and so I can help you out. And I’m just super thankful for all of you on Team Flynn who have listened and left a review. I appreciate that so much, and make sure you hit subscribe. Thank you so much. I look forward to serving you in the next episode, and Team Flynn for the win.

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